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Women of the Romance Countries   By: (1869-1933)

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First Page:

[Illustration: MARIA DE PADILLA

After the painting by Paul Gervais. ]


In all ages and in all countries



JOHN R. EFFINGER, Ph.D. Of the University of Michigan


Copyrighted at Washington and entered at Stationers' Hall, London

1907 1908

and printed by arrangement with George Barrie's Sons.



No one can deny the influence of woman, which has been a potent factor in society, directly or indirectly, ever since the days of Mother Eve. Whether living in Oriental seclusion, or enjoying the freer life of the Western world, she has always played an important part in the onward march of events, and exercised a subtle power in all things, great and small. To appreciate this power properly, and give it a worthy narrative, is ever a difficult and well nigh impossible task, at least for mortal man. Under the most favorable circumstances, the subject is elusive and difficult of approach, lacking in sequence, and often shrouded in mystery.

What, then, must have been the task of the author of the present volume, in essaying to write of the women of Italy and Spain! In neither of these countries are the people all of the same race, nor do they afford the development of a constant type for observation or study. Italy, with its mediƦval chaos, its free cities, and its fast and loose allegiance to the temporal power of the Eternal City, has ever been the despair of the orderly historian; and Spain, overrun by Goth, by Roman, and by Moslem host, presents strange contrasts and rare complexities.

Such being the case, this account of the women of the Romance countries does not attempt to trace in detail their gradual evolution, but rather to present, in the proper setting, the most conspicuous examples of their good or evil influence, their bravery or their cowardice, their loyalty or their infidelity, their learning or their illiteracy, their intelligence or their ignorance, throughout the succeeding years.

Chroniclers and historians, poets and romancers, have all given valuable aid in the undertaking, and to them grateful acknowledgment is hereby made.


University of Michigan.

Part First

Italian Women

Chapter I

The Age of the Countess Matilda of Tuscany

The eleventh century, which culminated in the religious fervor of the First Crusade, must not on that account be considered as an age of unexampled piety and devotion. Good men there were and true, and women of great intellectual and moral force, but it cannot be said that the time was characterized by any deep and sincere religious feeling which showed itself in the general conduct of society. Europe was just emerging from that gloom which had settled down so closely upon the older civilizations after the downfall of the glory that was Rome, and the light of the new day sifted but fitfully through the dark curtains of that restless time. Liberty had not as yet become the shibboleth of the people, superstition was in the very air, the knowledge of the wisest scholars was as naught, compared with what we know to day; everywhere, might made right.

In a time like this, in spite of the illustrious example of the Countess Matilda, it cannot be supposed that women were in a very exalted position. It is even recorded that in several instances, men, as superior beings, debated as to whether or not women were possessed of souls. While this momentous question was never settled in a conclusive fashion, it may be remarked that in the heat of the discussion there were some who called women angels of light, while there were others who had no hesitation in declaring that they were devils incarnate, though in neither case were they willing to grant them the same rights and privileges which they themselves possessed. Though many other facts of the same kind might be adduced, the mere existence of such discussion is enough to prove to the most undiscerning that woman's place in society was not clearly recognized, and that there were many difficulties to be overcome before she could consider herself free from her primitive state of bondage... Continue reading book >>

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